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Businessman loses $85,000 after B.C. wine deal goes sour

Image Credit: PEXELS

An Ontario businessman who shelled out $85,000 for 138 bottles of wine won't get to sip any of the vintage vino after the company he thought he was buying it from fired its vice president who was doing the deal on the side.

The businessman, Moez Kassam, had coughed up $50,000 for 18 bottles of burgundy and must have been happy with the $2,700 bottles, as he then ordered a further 138 bottles costing him $85,000 from North Vancouver company Dream Wines.

In both transactions, Kassam dealt directly with Dream Wines then vice-president Brian Gunsten.

However, shortly after the deal, the company fired Gunsten for "moonlighting" by selling wine other than through Dream Wines.

For reasons not given in the decision Kassam's $85,000 wine order arrived damaged and was sent back.

When he then looked for a refund the situation got messy.

Kassam launched a civil suit against Dream Wines in an effort to have his $85,000 refunded.

However, according to a June 27 B.C. Supreme Court decision, getting the money wasn't straightforward.

The decision says Kassam ordered the $600 a bottle wine through Gunsten and wired him $85,000 in November 2020.

After the wine was returned because it was damaged Kassam discovered Dream Wines had fired Gunsten for selling non-company wine.

In his legal case against the company, Kassam argues Dream Wines owes him $85,000 for the wine he didn't receive.

However, Dream Wines argued it is not responsible for the transaction because it was a private deal between Kassam and the former vice-president and it had no involvement in the sale.

The decision goes into detail to address the legalities of whether the wine sale was through Dream Wines or Kassam personally.

While Kassam had used his work email for the transaction, the money had been directly wired to him and the wine had not been listed for sale on the Dream Wines website.

Sometime after Gunsten was fired he texted Kassam to say he'd send him $10,000 per week in repayment but ultimately only sent $1,900.

The court decision says Gunsten has since gone bankrupt and didn't respond to the court proceedings.

Justice Andrew Mayer pointed to several reasons why the deal did not involve Dream Wines.

"Mr. Kassam’s subjective belief that he was entering into the contract, with Dream Wines, is not relevant," the justice said.

In his ruling, the Justice highlighted that Dream Wines does not sell to individuals and is a broker between wine producers and purchasers and only sells wine through liquor distribution authorities in Alberta and B.C.

The wine that Kassam paid for was also not listed on its website.

The judge said both invoices issued for the sales didn't include GST or PST which suggested the sale was "off the books." The justice also pointed out that the money was wired to Gunsten personally.

"In summary, I conclude that the contract was between... Mr. Kassam... and Mr. Gunsten in his personal capacity. Accordingly, there can be no claim for the alleged breach of the contract made against Dream Wines," the justice ruled.

The question of how Kassam will get any of his $85,000 back since Gunsten has since gone bankrupt remains to be seen.

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